Yesterday, McHenry County Blog suggested Governor Pat Quinn was attempting to recreate the hated personal property tax, which died an electoral death in November, 1970.
I explained how county treasurers throughout Illinois tried to put heat on legislators by enforcing this quite unfair tax.
One spring, we noticed that a state representative, George Burditt, had introduced a bill to require payment of personal property taxes before the Secretary of State would issue a car’s license plate.
En mass, a group of county treasurers arrived unannounced at the little hearing room on an upper floor behind the House chambers.
I remember sitting there while Antioch’s Bingo Bill Murphy argued against imposing (or, maybe, it was lowing) the blood alcohol limit. He said he drank more than that and he could drive just fine or something like that.
When it came to our bill, the Motor Vehicle Committee members were surprised that good government representative Burditt’s bill had so many supporters…and elected officials at that.
It passed out of committee and even passed the House before it died in the State Senate.
My state senator, Bob Coulson of Waukegan, took notice.
He introduced a constitutional amendment to exempt individuals from the personal property tax. That got the heat off the legislators and put it on the electorate.
The county treasurers were fine with that.
It passed the general election of my fourth year in office. The year was 1970.
I remember the Crystal Lake Jaycees took “Give Dirty Water the Works” campaign brochures and printing a pitch about abolishing the personal property tax on the back.
I was GOP precinct committeeman in Algonquin Township Precinct 7 at the time. Only one or two people voted against the amendment.
Naturally, it passed statewide.
When a case challenging the constitutionality of that amendment went to the Illinois Supreme Court, it was ruled unconstitutional with only one dissenting vote.
That was our Justice Charles H. Davis, the Rockford man who courted McHenry County Courthouse officials in his campaign to get the nomination. (I remember talking with him in the closest thing I had to a private office. It was a cubical we had built in the middle of the old courthouse hall. To say we were short for space was a huge understatement.
The case went to the United States Supreme Court, where it was ruled constitutional without a dissenting vote.
And, after all that work to get rid of the personal property tax, Governor Quinn is upping the ante for driving a car.
It looks a lot like a personal property tax to me…especially, as we county treasurers of the late 1960′s envisioned it under Burditt’s bill.
Don’t pay your tax and you can’t drive your car.
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George Burditt ran for the U.S. Senate in 1974. The car top is from that campaign, which he lost to Adlai Stevenson III by 726,612. (I lost to Roland Burris for State Comptroller in 1982 by more.)
The building is the Illinois Supreme Court Building in Springfield.